The "Nope" Response on Social Media

I often find that when someone posts a photo of a snake or spider (my two favorite animals) to social media, many people feel obligated to reply with a comment saying “Nope”. It seems like almost a performative social act, a way to proudly proclaim one doesn’t like these animals and wants to let others know about it.

Not sure where I want to go with this thread, and I certainly don’t want any of us to castigate others for having a fear or snakes, spiders, sharks, etc. (I have some totally crippling irrational fears myself) but I guess I just wanted to see if a) anyone else noticed this because it’s long been on my mind and b) what, if anything can be done to change the general public response to these types of animals. And I say this coming from an 8 year background of doing public outreach with reptiles, amphibians, spiders, and insects.

10 Likes

a) Yes. Definitely noticed that people feel almost obligated (sometimes me too) to express their fears or dislike and usually only with those highly stigmatized fauna that are “socially acceptable” to hate or fear.

b)My main tip: Use iNat! I am a serious arachnophobe but since beginning to use it I have increasingly become less sensitized to my spider friends (see, I called them friends!) and my visceral reactions/ fight or flight responses have become less so. I’m slowly becoming more driven to photograph and learn and sometimes find myself getting much closer than I ever could have imagined. Seeing as I am almost middle-aged and this has happened rapidly in the scope of all the years I’ve been afraid I’ve reached the conclusion that the association with learning and challenging myself has helped both my attitudes and personal fears adjust.

So much is based in society’s need for mutual acceptance. Talking trash about snakes or spiders is socially acceptable and reinforces one’s potential acceptance into a community and is also possibly a way to elicit sympathy and comfort. Hating on Labrador retrievers will not make you any friends (conversely). Also, separating our rational and irrational fears from the process of fascination and respect for the subject (be it a slimy gastropod or eight-legged multi-eyed runner) can be a good incremental shift or alternative to hatred and destruction of things we deem “bad,” “scary,” “etc.” I think sometimes people try to challenge the irrational with rational which doesn’t really work, “this spider isn’t poisonous so don’t be scared!” I have zero problems with snakes and sharks (other than a very healthy fear for personal safety when in their turf) but even small arachnids make me twitch and shudder. Not rational. I am getting better at over-riding the reaction to make iNat observations though!

14 Likes

I do notice the nopers. I agree that it’s probably a bit of a performance, but I also think that a lot of people are really afraid of snakes or invertebrates and that saying “nope” is a bit of a shield against having to come to terms with that fear. Flight versus fight, to which @mira_l_b alluded.

A little bit of education often seems to reduce the fear factor. For example, I personally find that it’s much more difficult to go out of my way to squash a big, flappy moth that made its way into the house now that I know a little bit about its name or something else about it. But I have to think that a lot of people who nope are probably also not that interested in the creatures they nope about, so a little bit of self-education is probably seen as too nerdy. I suspect that the fear reinforces the disinterest. In the end, it’s easier to nope.

6 Likes

I don’t think most “nope” responses are jokes, but actual reflections of a phobia or general dislike. I have doubts that trying to convince these people otherwise would be successful. Instead, it seems better to remind people that these organisms are important, and not disposable. Not to mention, there is probably a proportion of people that don’t care – if you tell them not to make these responses, they just won’t respond at all.

2 Likes

You could respond with a “Yup!”, your affirmative of choice, or a happy emoji :heart_eyes: to express your enthusiasm for the creepies?

7 Likes

I think “nope!” has become a popular meme of sorts, along with its meaner sibling “kill it with fire!”. I’ve seen both on a variety of forums and social media platforms that aren’t dedicated to herps/inverts/zoology. So the aspect of perpetuating the meme/jumping on the bandwagon may explain part of it. Maybe its popularity reflects a lack of suitable default emoji/reaction buttons (Facebook has Like, Love, Haha, Wow, Sad, and Angry, but no “Ew” or “Yikes!”)

As to what to can be done to change peoples views, that’s probably something that requires more personal, hands on education with the person (and the object of their disgust): lecturing on the internet probably won’t be effective.

3 Likes

Yes, I was thinking less about direct responses (which often won’t be effective and will come off as lecturing) and more to long-term societal shifts. Which is a lot to ask for, I know! ;-) But having done a ton of outreach and been responsibile for someone touching a snake or lizard for the first time (and finding out how cool they are!) I’m hopeful that more outreach will be effective. I don’t want to introduce an entirely different and heated topic here, but it seems like some towns that previously practiced rattlesnake roundups now do rattlesnake education events and I’ve heard those can be successful, which is awesome.

2 Likes

I expect if more people who dislike insects made them into a regular food item, then attitudes towards insects in general would soften, or at least the “Eeeeew, gross” aspects. And it seems to me that this is a thing that will have to happen soon enough for economic and environmental reasons. Just got to get the ball rolling. In fact, I just went and ordered myself a (presumably) tasty bag of silk worms and crickets to munch on. And to think before I used iNat I didn’t even like mushrooms.

3 Likes

I notice that another similar thing, especially in several facebook groups I’m in relating to ecology and entomology, is the constant appearance of memes/posts that portray wasps in a negative light. There are many wonderful users who try to educate the people who post these, but it seems to be such a widespread thing and it keeps happening.

4 Likes

for spider “nopes”, I trot out the link to Lucas! All fears are real things, but they can be overcome with gradual desensitisation. Baby steps (like Lucas, and then actual salticids etc) are key.

Everyone at work are nopers. I currently work with civil works and when on bridge repairs for instance, I make a point of naming and talking about all the spiders I see. I handle many of them, and the reactions they have are gradually becoming more of interest than disgust!

5 Likes

I think one thing we can do is to try to take as beautiful as image as possible of the creatures that people often fear, and also always to post images with one short comment that mentions a useful or fascinating thing about them. For example I always point out (to New Yorkers) that House Centipedes eat cockroaches.

11 Likes

I’ve seen the “nope” response too. Without asking the commenter directly it’s difficult, however, to determine if “nopes” are tongue-and-cheek or the product of genuine dislike for the creature. I often suspect it’s both. Therefore, it may not be worthwhile to write posts for them specifically or respond directly to the “nope.” Yet, it is worthwhile to interpret the lives of animals for the people who are timid but curious, those who may not “like” spiders but are open to learning about them. These readers are far more numerous than the “nopers” and that’s who I’d primarily focus my efforts on.

I started public outreach as a park ranger in 2001, but many years later, when I began to manage social media for a U.S. national park, I quickly learned that communicating over the internet isn’t exactly the same as leading a guided walk.

Almost immediately I saw that certain posts were very likely generate certain responses. Knowing that, I began to write posts more carefully so they alleviated concerns and/or answered questions before they were asked. The same can be done for spiders/snakes/sharks/any other negatively stigmatized animal by crafting a message that helps people understand the animal’s relevancy.

My starting point is to write a post that answers “so what?” By highlighting the animal’s uniqueness and connecting it to meaningful concepts that everyone experiences and can relate to (survival, reproduction, challenge, change, hunger, etc), then people are more likely to respect and hopefully protect the animal.

Additionally, even though posts about certain species are likely to generate the “nope” comment, it means that the person was, even for a brief moment, engaged on the topic, creating a window of opportunity to broaden his/her horizon. Which, in my opinion, is more than enough motivation to interpret the animal’s life in the original post.

Finally, there’s great value in just sharing. We needn’t write an essay on the ecological role of snakes every time we post a photo of one on Twitter. When people see that other people value animals like snakes and spiders, then they might just be more open to learning about them, nope or no nope.

8 Likes

I admit, I tend to use ‘nope’ when it’s a situation or photo showing something that would project fear or disgust, like a rearing snake, a batch of tick eggs, etc, rather than ‘picture of snake’ or ‘picture of tick’.

I think one solution is to just explain how you got the shot, or explanations like ‘this species actually does this more for show than anything’. Giving a little dose of insight can help a lot, but I agree in that lecturing or talking down to someone will turn others off.

As for anything involving a spider, spiderbro just wants to help. :) He’ll even show you how to make a quick getaway.

5 Likes

That gif is glorious :smiley:

2 Likes

I too love spiders and snakes but the other day shrieked like small child when tigrosa came out from under leaves while I was weeding! I then proceeded to get my camera and enjoy observing it closely. I think the nope response is similar to that involuntary shriek response except in an on-line version. Its the first thing that comes to mind. I think just by continuing to enthusiastically posting about these animals you might change some minds. At least theyre reacting which means they are at the very least viewing but possibly may be reading whatever information you are providing - of course the simpler the message the better - these days it might also be a good idea to dress it up with some of the silly but pleasing icons and gifs - people seem to be fairly easily swayed by whatever glitz you attach to social media - maybe it will help it go viral!

2 Likes

I am absolutely terrified of spiders. I wouldn’t respond “nope” on iNaturalist, but depending on the person and the context I might on Facebook. For example, a friend posted a pic of a peacock spider on my wall because she thought it was cute. I said nope and told her I’m arachnophobic.
While it makes no logical sense, sometimes when I see a gif or video of a spider, I’m immediately scared it will crawl out of the screen and onto me. I realize that sounds insane, but that’s what pops into my head.
I’m guessing most of the nopers are performative, while some are just saying they don’t like the critter and don’t understand why you took the pic.

3 Likes

For my part I like to respond with a :plate_with_cutlery: emoji…

What, you mean there are non-food pictures on social media anymore? :stuck_out_tongue:

2 Likes